Daily life. Six preconceived ideas about waste sorting and recycling

Yellow, green, blue and gray containers, compost containers, textile containers… Sorting and recycling no longer seem to have secrets for the French. As proof: in 2021, only one in 10 users did not classify their household waste, according to the eco-organization Citeo in an activity report presented last summer. And that same year, 66 million tons of waste were collected for recycling, of which about 53 million were returned to production, the Ecological Transition Agency (Ademe) also points out in a study published last week.

But let’s not shout cheers too quickly. Because errors and preconceptions regarding recycling continue to cause problems among French consumers. And on this World Recycling Day, this Monday, we separate truth from falsehood.

1/I think that plastic packaging cannot be recycled

Pastry containers, ham trays, laundry detergent containers, toothpaste tubes, yogurt pots, beauty product bottles… all this plastic waste can go through the sorting and recycling box. And even the caps and collars, previously carefully separated from their plastic bottles, can also be placed in the sorting container, hanging or not. And while this type of recycling is growing, both in terms of collection and manufacturing practices, “it is still too weak,” Ademe says in her study. “Therefore, more support from sorters, more eco-design of products and more recycling capabilities are required,” she continues.

However, not all plastics are suitable for recycling. “This is the case, for example, of polyester, water pack films or certain meat trays; These complex materials constitute around 20% of plastic waste,” illustrates Frédéric Roux, director responsible for the eastern regions of France at Citeo. At least for the moment. “Citeo has built two, and soon three, over-classification centers to separate these new plastic materials, to adapt them to the standards and formats expected by the new recycling plants, which are being created and will see the light of day between 2025 and 2028.” says the director.

2/I think not everything goes to the yellow bin

To the delight of somewhat lazy classifiers, from 1Ahem Starting in January 2023, all packaging (cardboard, metal, aluminum and plastic), which helps protect and guarantee the conservation of a product, can be collected in the same container, the yellow one. An instruction intended to “relieve the mental load of the classifier”, praises Frédéric Roux, and which results from the energy transition law for green growth enacted in 2015.

And it is also about paper, although it is more interesting to place it in a specific container to prevent it from mixing and thus facilitate sorting at the factory. But the regional director warns: “The main error is the assimilation of the packaging to any other object prohibited in the yellow container. If you put in a plastic toy, for example, like Legos, it may not be recycled or may even disrupt the recycling process. » If such instructions have been implemented, the recycling of metals (copper, metal, aluminum and steel) “is not optimal”, analyzes Ademe, while the needs of the French industry increase.

3/Always clean dirty waste before sorting it

Legend says that you should clean or rinse your containers if you want them to be tidy, but this is absolutely false. The freshly stained can of ratatouille, the frozen bag containing two peas, the pizza box with its traces of grease, the milk carton that is still dripping… all these containers that have been in contact with food can be perfectly integrated into classification and recycling. However, it is necessary to empty them properly, otherwise they risk becoming serious “classification disruptors”, adds Frédéric Roux. And the key: significant water savings in these times of rising energy prices.

4/I nest my waste or put it in bags

You might think that it is advisable to make a pile with your compotes or fit your preserves inside your cereal box, both to save space at home and to make cleaning work easier. Bad idea: because factory machines are not capable of detecting a material nested inside another. Therefore, after the compaction stage, concealed packaging simply will not be recycled. The same applies to containers contained in a bag. Misidentified, they can be disposed of with household waste despite their recycling potential. And after so much classification effort, it would be a shame…

5/Recycling is useless, garbage collectors put everything in the same truck

“The idea that recycling is useless is catastrophic,” thunders Frederick Roux. “ It helps create a circular economy, reduces packaging and therefore has unprecedented impacts on the environment and human health. » On the other hand, if you are worried about seeing garbage collectors throw waste in the same truck, then everything is well classified and said truck is usually made up of two compartments: one for classic garbage and another for garbage. container classification.

6/I can’t recycle my biowaste, I don’t have a garden…

This defense will no longer stand in 2024! From 1Ahem January, and within the framework of the Agec law, communities have the obligation to offer their neighbors solutions for the management of organic waste (door-to-door collection of “bioseals”, installation of neighborhood or individual composters, etc.). Companies also had to take the step. And when we know that biowaste constitutes a third of the content of our garbage, or a third of non-recyclable waste, according to the Ministry of Ecological Transition, recycling it would be more than welcome.

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